I’ve mentioned before the fact that there are very few free cashpoints in East London. It’s just one of those irritating little facts of life. Mare Street has a few around the council building, Dalston Junction has one, but around Broadway Market/Hackney Road and Brick Lane you are looking at paying around £2 for access to some battered looking relic that will skim your card and empty your account at the same time.
Anyway, life goes on. So last night I’m just about to get my turn at a cashpoint on Shoreditch High Street when a big, loud, drunkish bloke comes up and asks if he can jump the queue (now about four people deep) as ‘I’ve got a cab waiting and it’s going to cost me £2 if I have to wait.’
I was running late myself, going to see novelist Lionel Shriver read at Eastside Books with a twenty-minute window to neck a bagel and a cup of tea, so as to not disgrace myself at the pretzels and wine table. So I was inclined to say Bugger off, mate.
But everyone behind me said, oh it’s fine by me, in wispy little voices, and even the homeless man sitting by the cashpoint said oh go on, be nice people….. so I reluctantly stood aside. It pains me to admit it.
And the thing that was really annoying is that his voice, clothes, everything screamed City Banker (this is of course right at the point of Shoreditch High Street where the financial district blurs into the East End, eg where the massage parlours and kebab shops begin. It’s probably where he was heading right that minute).
My only comfort was that the homeless guy asked him for money and he turned back to me with a chummy sort of smile and said, Isn’t he cheeky? And I said, No, you’re the cheeky one, you should give him some money.
Of course he said, Sorry mate, I don’t have any change.
And all I could think afterwards is I’ve just saved a reckless, greedy, overfed city banker two quid.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I feel better now. But seriously, the queue is sacred. It’s one of the fundamentals of this country.